Greenwood Community High School senior guard Jae Taft made certain her father Lee Taft’s first Johnson County Girls Basketball Tournament appearance as coach was a successful one.
Jae sank a 3-pointer to put Greenwood ahead for good with 33 seconds to go en route to a 58-52 victory against Whiteland in Saturday night’s championship game at Center Grove High School.
“It feels so good because my dad has been with me through everything, so it’s nice to bring it home for him,” said Jae Taft, who led the Woodmen (6-0) with 27 points.
Jae, who played her sophomore year at Center Grove, was home-schooled as a junior.
“It’s fun to be a part of this,” she said. “I love these girls.”
Woodmen senior guard Holly Hoopingarner, who scored 20 points on 6 of 23 shooting, hit two free throws with 18.8 seconds left to push the lead to 56-52. Brooke Uebersetzig added the final two points from the foul line.
Hoopingarner was a freshman when Greenwood won its last county tournament title in 2012.
“We’ve got a lot of senior leadership. We didn’t panic,” Lee Taft said. “We got out of sorts a little bit. We’re just so undersized. We had to just battle the whole time. In the fourth quarter, we made plays when we had to make them. That’s what I told them, sometimes you just have to win ugly when you are not playing your best. We beat a very good team and we knew it was going to be tough. (Whiteland coach) Kyle (Shipp) did a great job and he was ready for us.
“Jae and Holly are used to taking big shots. Holly is so aggressive and so tough. Jae is a lot like her. She’s got that aggressive mindset offensively. That’s what we need.”
Hoopingarner, who will play for IUPUI, said the victory was a complete team effort.
“Everybody stepped up and did their part,” Hoopingarner said. “Defensively, everyone did what we needed to do to get the win.”
Hoopingarner said the Woodmen tried their best to use their speed to their advantage.
“Our defense usually create our offense,” she said.
Lee Taft said Greenwood usually has more flow to its offense.
“But that was probably because of the big girl (Mackenzie Blazek), it was hard to get to the rim,” Taft said. “We tire teams out, and I think they got a little tired.”
Blazek, a 6-2 sophomore center, led the Warriors (2-2) with 24 points, hitting 10-of-23 shots.
Blazek had given the Warriors a 52-51 lead with just over a minute left.
The Warriors were hurt by making just 8 of 24 from the free throw line, including 4 of 13 in the fourth quarter.
“It’s a good meaningful game to be in this early in the year,” Shipp said. “I think we’ll learn from it a little bit. I’m proud of the way my girls played. A bounce here or a shot there or you convert those free throws and the outcome is a little different.
“They made one more play than we made, that’s basically what it comes down too.”
In the third-place game, Cassidy Hardin (16 points) and Lauren Rau (15) combined for 31 points to propel Center Grove to a 66-48 victory over Franklin. Allison Utterback added 13 points for the Trojans (3-3). Macy Eads had 15 for the Grizzly Cubs (2-5).
In the fifth-place game, Indian Creek (5-1) topped Edinburgh (1-4) 60-46.